Turner Motorsport had a great start to the 2022 season in the opening round of the Michelin Pilot Challenge championship, putting one M4 GT4 on the podium and the other in the top five at Daytona. Bill Auberlen and Dillon Machavern drove the #95 M4 GT4 to a third-place finish behind two Porsches, while Robby Foley, Vin Barletta, and Michael Dinan finished a strong fifth.
The M4 GT4s didn’t look all that quick in the practice sessions leading up to the race, as the new Porsche 718 GT4 RS Clubsport and Ford Mustang GT4 dominated the lap times, but Machavern managed to put the #95 car in fifth in qualifying with a 1:54.036 lap, around 1.3 seconds off the pole of the #8 Porsche. Vin Barletta qualified the #96 Turner car in twentieth with a 1:56.047, followed by Sean Quinlan in the Cameron Racing #43 M4 GT4 in 25th with a 1:56.998.
At the start of the four-hour race, Machavern dropped to 8th within a few laps, but then fought his way back a few positions before handing off to Auberlen. Halfway through the race, Auberlen was in fifth but then worked his way up into the lead at one point and stayed in the top three, having some great battles on-track with the Porsches and Mustangs that were running in the top five. Robby Foley drove the final stint in the #96 car and also worked his way into the top five.
Toward the end of the race, Auberlen got some aerodynamic assistance from teammate Robby Foley to move into third, behind the winning RS1 Porsche and the second place Porsche of Team TGM. It was a great result at a track where the M4 GT4 was at a disadvantage compared with the Porsches and Mustangs. “Well, that was a great way to start the year,” said Auberlen on his Facebook page. “It was a four-hour nonstop battle which ended with Robby Foley in my sister car actually pushing me past a Porsche at 170mph on the main straight for third place!”
The strong finish by Turner Motorsport was a great start to the championship, in what will be the final year for the F82 M4 GT4 before its replacement, which is based on the current G82 M4, arrives for 2023. The other two M4 GT4s in the field didn’t fare as well as the Turner cars. The #92 Random Vandals Racing M4 GT4 was involved in a heavy accident on Thursday before the race, when another team decided to go out on slicks on a wet track in practice and subsequently lost control of their car, forcing Al Carter off the track and into a wall. The #43 Cameron Racing M4 GT4 of Greg Liefooghe and Sean Quinlan finished 26th in class, six laps down from the leaders.
The next race for the Michelin Pilot Challenge series is at Sebring in mid-March.—David Haueter
[Photos courtesy Jon Van Woerden.]